dancing horses

dancing horses

Monday, October 17, 2022

Unlocking the Neck

 Based on my recent blogs you would think that Carmen and I have not had any lessons lately. Between weather and other things, we have managed to squeeze in a few.  

Carmen has been a bit of a dragon this fall (as usual). Some of my rides were definitely less than fun. The trick is to stay course and not give up. Also, groundwork- lots and lots of groundwork.  But I  noticed a change this week in her overall feeling. Which coincided nicely with our lesson on the weekend. After a day and night of rain the morning was much improved. The weather was drizzly and gray but the wind was quiet and it was a lovely gray fall day. 

I do love these soft mornings

The ring was saturated- too wet to even dragging to be of use. But the nice thing about my ring is that the footing stays good and doesn't get slippery.  Jane arrived as I was getting on and we talked about how things had been going. Jane was describing another horse and said 'she's the queen of compromise.' 

Just like Carmen I said. 

Ha! Jane responded Carmen does NOT compromise. 

I laughed. fair enough. 

Our lessons have moved into working on Carmen's alignment and getting the half-halt to actually go through. Carmen's tendency is to lock her neck. This not only blocks the half-halt, it stops her from being able to really lift and come from behind. If I understand it correctly, if her neck is locked, the energy from behind hits it and bounces back, pushing her back down and her legs to go out behind. 

see how wet it is? Also see Carmen standing quietly in a puddle. 
Water has never been a problem for her. 

We won't be able to really progress if we can't get her to loosen her neck and soften. Not to mention that when her neck is locked steering is more 'Jesus take the wheel' than I'm comfortable with. 

You might think that Carmen was quite happy that I realised this and was working to help her use her neck properly. 

You would be wrong. Appalled might describe it better.  I'm not going to show you the start of our lesson, but trust me it was pretty awful. The goal was to use the half-halt on the outside rein and get her to soften on the inside and flex at her poll. I had been unaware of how much Carmen was choosing whether to listen to my half-halts and how much I was accepting that. So now that Jane won''t allow me to give up that means I can't let Carmen choose. 
However, we weren't a total disaster and our turn on the haunches are improving. 

I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have persisted as much without Jane there talking me through it and encouraging me to embrace the suck. 
here I am embracing the suck. it actually made me giggle

 As the lesson progressed things became softer and her neck really began to work. Rather than being a solid mass of muscle it became much more fluid. 

This photo was from the week before but shows how 
we're coming

Our canter work is really improving. Carmen is much more aligned, which allows her to lift. 

We picked up a right canter and Jane had us take it up by C. There was a lot of water there and as Carmen cantered through I couldn't help but squeal 'wheee' like I was 12. It was so much fun. 

Lot's to pick apart in terms of my equitation, but who cares? 
I am having so much fun and so is Carmen. 
And oh my, the mud!

Jane commented that I should compare our trot work to this time last year. When I looked I can definitely see a difference in how she's carrying herself. 
October 2022

October 2021

When I look I see her a lot more free in her shoulder and lower neck. Our last lessons have been hard- like boot camp hard. But I love this work. I have a vision of what I need to accomplish and what I need to do to get there. I can feel how much better Carmen feels when she's aligned and soft in her neck. It is not going to be easy - there's a lot we need to unpack and rebuild. But that's okay, I've never been afraid of hard work. 


  1. Love that you're having fun playing in the mud! We haven't had much for rain in 3 months.
    I sure miss going to clinics , heck, I miss having a broke horse to ride!

    1. No rain for 3 months?! Wow, everything would die here. I like to work hard but I really ride because it's fun.

  2. That four hoof hop in the air is impressive. Cabriole? ­čśé

  3. The difference between 2021 and 2022 at the trot is pretty big. You both look so much more toned and your position looks so much stronger. Carmen is looking really good. Go you!

    1. I love that you said we looked more toned! Thank you!

  4. I think locking up the neck is a favorite for all of my horses. It's so easy to evade pretty much everything else once the neck locks up! Glad you're working through it with Carmen. I'm sure she'll be much less appalled once it becomes habit.

    1. I hope that the level of shock dissipates. I'm sure it will :)

  5. “Embracing the suck,” I’m going to have to steal that. Haha. There’s a lot of that on this road.


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